Space Force, Artemis Get Shout Outs in State of the Union Address

Space Force, Artemis Get Shout Outs in State of the Union Address

President Trump gave a shout-out to the new U.S. Space Force in tonight’s State of the Union address as well as calling on Congress to fully fund the Moon-by-2024 Artemis program as a “launching pad” to Mars.

The Space Force was created as the first new military service since 1947 in the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  Although the idea of a separate organization within the Air Force dedicated to space originated in Congress in 2017, Trump’s enthusiastic endorsement was pivotal in getting DOD to accept the idea and work with Congress to enact it.

After acknowledging establishment of Space Force, Trump went on to introduce 8th grader Iain Lanphier who wants to go to the Air Force Academy and “has his eye on the Space Force.  As Iain says, ‘most people look up at space, I want to look down on the world.'”

Iain was sitting next to his 100-year-old great-grandfather, Charles McGee, whom Trump introduced as one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen.  McGee flew combat missions in World War II and continued to serve in the Korean and Vietnam wars.  Trump just promoted him to Brigadier General.

McGee will be at NASA tomorrow to talk about his career as part of Black History month. He will be joined by astronaut Alvin Drew who flew on two space shuttle missions.  NASA says they will “share their experiences on what it means to be a trailblazer and to inspire others to follow their dreams.” McGee flew a total of 409 combat missions during his 30 year Air Force career and is one of only nine surviving Tuskegee airmen of the 355 who flew in combat.

Later in the speech, Trump turned to NASA and the Artemis program — the White House’s plan to return astronauts to the lunar surface by 2024 (the end of a second Trump term if he wins reelection) with a longer term goal of humans on Mars. Trump has made a number of statements indicating he is more interested in Mars than the Moon.  Tonight he mentioned both.

In reaffirming our heritage as a free Nation, we must remember that America has always been a frontier nation. Now we must embrace the next frontier, America’s manifest destiny in the stars. I am asking the Congress to fully fund the Artemis program to ensure that the next man and the first woman on the moon will be American astronauts — using this as a launching pad to ensure that America is the first nation to plant its flag on Mars. — President Trump

The House and Senate committees that oversee NASA generally agree on returning to the Moon and going on to Mars, though the details, including timeline and affordability, remain controversial.

Trump asked Congress to “fully fund” Artemis, but has not yet told Congress what that cost will be.  Bridenstine has offered a ballpark estimate of $20-30 billion over the next 5 years on top of what NASA was already planning to request, an increase of $4-6 billion per year above its roughly $22 billion annual budget.  Trump is expected to submit his FY2021 budget request to Congress next Monday, which should shed a great deal of light on what resources will be needed.

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